Hands-On Gaming

Hands-On Gaming
Staring Down the Barrel

Spanner | 26 Sep 2006 12:01
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The addition of these two accessories quickly paid off, and they did indeed kick start the collapsed industry; getting kids off the streets and back in front of TVs where they belonged.

And it wasn't long before some genuine sidearm style made it across the borders and into our arcades. In 1987, Taito graced us with the awesome one-man war machine known as Operation Wolf. This spectacular scrolling shooter featured mediocre graphics, standard sound effects and uninspired music. But none of that mattered once you saw the kick ass Uzi mounted on the coin-op's cabinet!

This magnificent piece of hardware catapulted Operation Wolf into arcade Valhalla overnight. The realistic looking submachine gun (which has been considered the pinnacle of designer weaponry ever since Arnie first brandished one with indiscriminate style in The Terminator) was precisely what the melancholic arcade creeper was looking for. The recoiling action gave the Uzi a sense of dynamic realism that belied the cartoony graphics onscreen, and coupled with a grenade launcher button on the front of the gun, the delightful power of carnage suddenly placed in the hands of a deranged youth was a wonderful feeling.

Op Wolf completely did away with an inherently tedious aspect of practically all light-gun games that came before it: an unreasonable emphasis on single shot accuracy. We were constantly obliged to refine our sharp shooting skills before any kind of progress within previous games was made, while Operation Wolf set us free to riddle the screen with virtual lead without care of consequence. There was no point having an Uzi and trying to save bullets with frugal sharp shooting; strafing every living thing and needlessly blowing shit up was the only method of progress here, and we finally got to know what it felt like to go to war as a well-armed, invincible maniac.

Once the sequel, Operation Thunderbolt, was released, we were naturally very excited about the prospect of a two player version of the classic Op Wolf mayhem. Unfortunately, the limited magic of the original meant the novelty had already passed, leaving behind a decidedly average game which could never recapture the cold steel thrill of the original Uzi-'em-up. And so it was with many light-gun games down through the years. The genre had reached an inevitable impasse that occurs when clone after clone revisits the same old tired gameplay.

Sega's 1994 Virtua Cop refreshed matters somewhat when it took shooting games into that elusive third dimension, though the gameplay returned to the single shot tedium of the Zapper's Duck Hunt. What really raised an eccentric eyebrow was when Time Crisis II found its way onto the PlayStation 2.

If you happened to have two light-guns, the Time Crisis sequel offered the dubious opportunity of going John Woo on the enemy's ass! If, like me, you're a fan of the hyper-violent action, flying blood, kneecap shots and gun-crazed anarchy of Chow Yun Fat's off-the-shelf macho characters in Mr. Woo's films, Time Crisis II took on a whole new dimension.

Storming in and emptying both clips into some generic bad guy is a sensational way to revel in your daily videogame violence fix. If only someone would invent a PlayStation accessory that sprays blood all over your face whenever you shoot someone up close, John Woo could retire a happy man.

For all my ranting and raving about letting the bullets fly free without care of accuracy, a more recent venture into the arcades left that notion fully turned on its head. Konami's 1999 sharp shooting extravaganza, Silent Scope, took the concept of single-shot accuracy in shooting games and expanded it to dramatic new horizons. The light-gun in question was a superb rendition of a sniper's rifle, complete with spotting scope, quivering crosshairs and blissfully unaware enemies.

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